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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Despite Bill Thompson I love the cloud

Cloud computing – the technology that connects large groups of servers that often use low-cost consumer PC technology, to spread complex data-processing chores across them. Google's search engine and productivity applications are among the early products of efforts to locate processing power on vast banks of computer servers, rather than on desktop PCs. Microsoft has released online software called Windows Live for photo-sharing, file storage, and other applications served from new data centers. Yahoo has taken similar steps. IBM has devoted 200 researchers to its cloud computing project. And Amazon recently broadened access for software developers to its EC3 (Elastic Compute Cloud) service, which lets small software companies pay for processing power streamed from Amazon's data centers.

While estimates are hard to find, the potential uses are widespread. Rather than serve a relatively small group of highly skilled users, cloud computing aims to make supercomputing available to the masses. Reed, who's moving to Microsoft from the University of North Carolina, says the technology could be used to analyze conversations at meetings, then anticipate what data workers might need to view next, for example. Google, Microsoft, and others are also building online services designed to give consumers greater access to information to help manage their health care.

Enough stuff that makes for hype? Yes and it did raise a lot of dust. Bill Thompson of BBC cuts through some clutter.

“Because behind all the rhetoric and promotional guff the 'cloud' is no such thing: every piece of data is stored on a physical hard drive or in solid state memory, every instruction is processed by a physical computer and the every network interaction connects two locations in the real world…It is often useful to conceptualize online activities as cyberspace, the place behind the screen, but the internet is firmly of the real world, and that is one of the greatest problems facing cloud computing today….Under the US Patriot Act the FBI and other agencies can demand to see content stored on any computer, even if it being hosted on behalf of another sovereign state.”

Well, data protection concerns always remain when you host anything in the cloud. But how about the reduced costs of cloud computing v. licensed software that loads the customer with a 22% maintenance, cost of upgrades, consultants fee and running after patches just to stay live?



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